Who's Buried in Lick's Tomb?

February 25, 2022
San Francisco Hauntings

Did you know that James Lick’s body is actually buried underneath the telescope in the observatory named after him? WEIRD, RIGHT?

A portrait of James Lick. He has short, but tousled, dark hair and an extremely thick beard and no moustache.
James Lick

James Lick was a piano maker who came to San Francisco in 1948 and made his fortune in real estate. After a successful career there, he moved to San Jose and invested in farms and orchards. At one point he was the richest man in California. Upon his death, he willed a large sum of money to build the world’s first permanent observatory atop Mount Hamilton. The bequest also required him to be buried beneath it, which was a fun thing people could do in the 1800’s. He died in 1867, and was re-interred under the telescope in 1887 when the observatory opened.

A photo of the telescope, shot from the floor looking up. Behind the telescope is the gridded internal structure of the domed roof
The telescope at Lick Observatory

All kinds of stuff is named after Lick in the Bay Area - two high schools, a freeway, and train terminal among others. He helped fund the construction of Golden Gate Park, the construction of an old folks home, and many other civic projects.

Source: California, by Kevin Starr (2005)


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